CAMPAIGNERS against a proposed park and ride scheme have released images showing the potential light pollution that will hit the Riverside area of Thames Valley Park.
Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee will vote on the scheme next week, which will see a 277 space car park built on land said to be a green lung for the region.
The land is on the boundary of Wokingham Borough Council’s district, and, if Wokingham approves the plans, it is expected that Reading will build a new bridge over the River Thames. This will be a bus lane providing a direct route into Reading town centre.
It is said that the plan will reduce traffic going through Cemetery Junction, one of Reading’s busiest bottlenecks.
In June, Cllr Malcolm Richards, Wokingham Borough Council’s executive member for highways and transport, said that Park and Rides help people make sustainable travel choices.
He said: “If our plans get a green light, we could start construction next year making this our third park and ride in the borough, following the opening of Winnersh Triangle and Mereoak.
“This planning application has taken on board responses from the consultation we held at the end of 2015.”
But campaigners have hit back, saying that their new images contradict claims they say Wokingham Borough Council have made that the scheme would have “no detrimental impact on the countryside”.
The campaigners say that their new artist’s impression is accurately researched, based on the borough’s park and ride at Winnersh Triangle and proves that it would have an impact.
However, a spokesperson for Wokingham Borough Council said that the artist’s impression is not accurate.
They said: “We will not have lighting columns that high, as there is a condition to be sensitive to light sensitive species, and the where there are current gaps in trees, new trees are proposed.”
Speaking to The Wokingham Paper, Reading East parliamentary candidate for the Green Party, Cllr Rob White, said that Newtown residents – the area of Reading that is next to Thames Valley Business Park – were worried about the plans.
He said: “Pretty much everyone is very concerned about the park and ride and the loss of green space. It is said to be Newtown’s green lung. It’s nice and wild and it’s going to be turned into a car park.”
He also felt that the impact on traffic in East Reading would be minimal, especially as modelling shows that car use will continue to increase.
“Traffic modelling shows that congestion will continue. In the short term, the park and ride will have an impact but by 2036 it will be worse than it is now. This scheme is not going to solve any problems.
“Why don’t we have another level built at Winnersh park ride rather than lose more green space. It will be intercepting traffic away from Reading.
“There are alternatives, but the councils don’t seem to want to pursue them.”
And the Wokingham Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson, Cllr Clive Jones, is also against the planned park and ride.
Speaking to The Wokingham Paper this week, he said: “We think we should oppose the motion. It will do nothing to reduce congestion: Cemetery Junction has the worst air quality in Reading.
“People will still drive to Reading to the park and ride, then get the bus. It will save nobody any time. It’s a complete waste of £4million to £5million.”
And there is a large swell of opposition against the plans.
A Facebook group, Don’t Trash The Thames, has 221 members and more than 1,500 people have signed a petition asking the councils to “halt plans to build a park-and-ride on the Thamesside and consider other options.”
It adds: We believe that an almost 400 space, £3 million park-and-ride on Broken Brow, behind the Wokingham Waterside Centre, will blight a wild, green, peaceful area by the Thames. Also, because Reading Council plans to increase the number of car journeys into Reading, this scheme will do nothing to tackle existing congestion and pollution problems in areas such as Cemetery Junction. Finally, we believe it will increase rat running in the Whitegates area to access the park-and-ride.”
On Wokingham Borough Council’s planning site, the application – number 161596 – has a host of comments against including one that says: “ The path along the River Thames from Reading and Sonning is always full of pedestrians and cyclists enjoying this amenity in the hustle and bustle of urban life. A park and ride with accompanying road will severely detract from this.”
Another notes: “Contaminants would undoubtedly leach into the Thames, particularly when flooded.”
And Earley Town Council is also against the plans. In its observations to Wokingham Borough Council, it said: “[Town] Councillors requested that this application be refused as they considered that the application represented an urban element which impacted on the natural environment of the River Thames and felt it lacked adequate landscaping to compensate for the existing that would be lost.
“Councillors also expressed concern that the works would disturb existing contamination on the site. They also expressed concern over the sustainability of the surface water drainage system.
“Additionally it would considered that these plans would negatively impact both the view from the Thames and the existing flora and fauna.”
Meeting open to the public
The planning meeting takes place at Wokingham Borough Council’s offices in Shute End, Wokingham on Wednesday, November 9 from 7pm. It is open to the public. For more details, click here.